Sunday, 20 February 2011
Birding in the Ladybridge and Deane Areas
Today, after a crazy week at work, I was determined to go out birding even though the sky was very overcast. I'd noticed on the Manchester Birding Forum that there'd been regular Waxwing sightings in the Ladybridge area over the last week. As I was very disappointed with my first photos of this fantastic bird in Horwich last November, I decided to go and have a look for them here. Unfortunately the light was very poor and so I knew none of the photos would be that great today and in the event that I didn't find any birds at all I had a backup plan for doing some geocaching in roughly the same area.
I set off at just after a 9am and arrived at about 9:25am having used Google Maps on my phone to locate the roads mentioned in the Forum. I parked up at the back of a pub and as soon as I got out of the car I could see a flock of birds in a tall poplar tree at the back of some flats and houses. Were they Starlings or Waxwings though? A quick look through my binoculars confirmed the latter.
So I quickly got my camera out and headed for the tree. I started taking photos immediately just in case they flew off, but it was very dull and overcast and so they are not of great quality. Then all the birds flew and for a few seconds I thought they'd gone, until I noticed them raiding the berries in a tree next to Ladybridge Community Centre. And then they all came back to the tall poplar tree again. It was Charlie Owens who had told me about this jizz (behaviour) when I first saw Waxwing in Horwich late last year, and here they were doing it again. I took some more photos and they flew off and returned again.
By now a couple of passers-by had asked me what the birds were and why they were of interest and so I did my best to explain - I must have sounded quite knowledgable to these non-birders and I quite impressed myself! However, I know I was only repeating what I've read in the Collins Guide and what others have told me - still, I suppose that's what everyone does to some extent.
As I was talking to one of the passers-by the birds flew off but this time did not return. I hung around for another ten minutes or so but they did not come back, and so I set off for my second location at the Middlebrook Trail in Deane, for which the last person had kindly given me directions.
I parked outside Deane Church and walked down the Deane Clough toward Middlebrook to look for Dippers, which again had been reported on the Forum recently. On the way I met a group of three ladies who spotted my camera and started telling me about an usual bird they had seen on the brook. They gave me directions as to where it was and as I walked along the footpath I surprised a Grey Heron which took off in front of me - to quick to get any good photos though.
When I got to where the ladies had told me the bird turned out to be a male Teal and not so unusual after all. So I carried on walking alongside the brook towards Ladybridge. Very shortly afterwards I heard a bird calling from behind me and as I turned around a browny-black bullet shot along the river course just above the water. It was a Dipper and it carried on upstream for about 100 metres and then landed on some stones on the river bank, just in front of a couple of people who had also noticed it.
As I was preparing my camera for some fast shutter speed photos, it shot back past me making the same calling sound and disappeared downstream. I fired off a few shots in the vain hope that I might get something - no real luck there though. I walked up to the couple and we chatted about the Dipper and other birds that they had seen in this area, including Kingfishers.
I left them to carry on their walk towards Ladybridge whilst I returned to my car. I didn't see anything else on my way back bar a single chaffinch and some crows. Still, I'd managed to get two birds for my growing year list and one of these for my life list today, and so I was very satisfied.